Taxi CCTV to stop disputes but privacy fears aired

People can no longer 'canoodle' in private. Picture: Getty
People can no longer 'canoodle' in private. Picture: Getty
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CONTROVERSIAL plans to install CCTV cameras in taxis across the Capital are set to become reality.

The city council is expected to agree “in principle” to the idea when a report goes before the regulatory committee tomorrow.

Objections have been made that the cameras would constitute an “invasion of privacy”, with some couples arguing for the right to “canoodle” in the back seat without having to worry they are being watched.

But this has been dismissed by Tony Kenmuir, director of Central Taxis, who said: “People should not be behaving like that anyway in a privately owned vehicle.”

The Edinburgh and Lothian Taxi Partnership has been campaigning for the cameras for several years in a bid to cut down incidents ranging from disputes over fares to verbal or physical abuse against drivers.

Mr Kenmuir said the cameras would also help protect passengers, including women and vulnerable children.

He said: “Most people think of us picking up shoppers, running business people about and picking up revellers at night but we do a lot of others things.

“Our major contract is with the council and we are regularly driving unaccompanied and vulnerable children from foster homes to care homes. We also do things for the NHS, often driving around with sensitive materials and urgent prescriptions.

“There are a lot of sensitive situations involving taxis.

“Occasionally people do make spurious accusations that the driver did this or did that and to some extent we want to protect the driver.

“We have people trying to burst out without paying and people being highly abusive. If anything, my view is that CCTV is as much – if not more so – for the benefit of the passenger.”

Kevin Wood, chairman of Central Taxis, said he supported the idea because it provided protection for both customers and drivers.

But he insisted that footage had to be the property of the council or the police, and that drivers should not have access to any of the recordings.

Under the plans, sound recordings could also be made but it is understood that drivers would have to inform passengers before the system was activated.

Guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office states that CCTV “must not be used to record conversations between members of the public, as this is highly intrusive and unlikely to be a justified infringement of their right to privacy”. However, the report also said that audio recording would be justified in “certain circumstances”, including instances when a taxi’s panic button is flipped.

Councillor Gavin Barrie, convener of the regulatory committee, said: “There is a report going to committee tomorrow recommending that the council agrees in principle to consult on whether licence holders should be allowed to fit such cameras to their vehicles, subject to certain conditions.”

Passengers know of film

SAFEGUARDS would be put in place to make sure recorded images were not misused.

The council would pay for administrative and operational costs for inspecting the vehicles which would be recovered by a one-off £50 inspection fee.

If approved, black cab drivers and private hire cars across the Capital would be given the choice of having them installed but stickers would inform passengers they were being filmed.

The proposals will be subject to a six-month consultation period.